In this issue, Affordable Housing Finance presents its annual AHF 50, our exclusive lists of the nation’s top affordable housing owners and developers.
Although we saw an uptick in the number of affordable housing developments started in 2012 from what was started in 2011—the for-profit and nonprofit companies on the developer list broke ground on 18,791 affordable units in 264 new developments last year, a roughly 8 percent jump from their 2011 totals—recent industry reports continue to expose the dire need for more affordable housing.
In a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) report to Congress, the agency said there were nearly 8.5 million families with worst-case housing needs—defined as renters with very low incomes who do not receive government housing assistance or who either paid more than half their monthly incomes for rent, lived in severely substandard conditions, or both—in 2011, an increase of 2.57 million households since 2007.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) reported that there are only 30 affordable rental units available for every 100 extremely low-income renters, and just 57 affordable and available rental units for every 100 very low-income households.
NLIHC followed up that report with its annual “Out of Reach” study, which found that in no state can an individual working a 40-hour week at the minimum wage afford an average two-bedroom apartment for his or her family. A one-bedroom apartment is even out of the worker’s grasp. One example shows that a minimum-wage worker in Hawaii must hold down 4.4 jobs to afford a modest apartment.
But the organizations behind these reports are offering solutions to Congress and the administration.
The Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission, which released its findings on the future of America’s housing in February, is calling for a huge boost to the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program.
While putting together the report, Henry Cisneros, former HUD secretary and co-chair of the Housing Commission, says he saw firsthand the effects of high prices on rentals for households. “Situations like those are what really drives it home in a persuasive way, for me to see that there’s a need for affordable housing.”
Cisneros says the two most urgent issues for the future of housing are restructuring the housing finance system and rebalancing government spending to help focus on vulnerable households.
The Housing Commission is recommending a 50 percent increase to the LIHTC program. In addition, the group urges providing gap funding that would support an expansion of the housing credit program.
The NLIHC also has been advocating for the government to modify the mortgage interest deduction and direct the savings to the National Housing Trust Fund, which was created as part of the Housing and Recovery Act of 2008 but never funded.